A Hemingway Story

“This is starting to feel like a Hemingway story,” Nick said.

“Oh? How’s that?” Bob, the bartender, said.

“Well, we’re in a bar, there’s a lot of booze, my name’s Nick, and this place is filled with a lot of depressed people,” Nick said.

I laughed.

“I don’t get it,” Bob said.

“Do you read Hemingway, Bob?” Nick asked.

“Sure. But I don’t get it,” Bob answered.

“Which of his stories have you read?”

“I’ve read For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

“Read his shorter stories and you’ll get it. Do you read Hemingway, Jerry?”

“I have, but I don’t like him,” I said.

Bob became thoughtful. He wiped the counter with a round cloth, in a circular manner. The counter shone from wiping.

“Are all of his male characters named Nick?” Bob asked.

“Nope, but many of them are,” Nick said.

“Are there always booze in his stories?”

“Nope, but there usually is. And there’s usually someone who’s drinking because he’s sad or empty.”

“Are you sad, Nick?” I asked.

“What do you think?” Nick answered without turning to me.

“I think you might be,” I said.

“You’re damn right I am,” he said.

“Are you sad, Jerry?” Bob asked me.

“Yeah, I guess I am,” I replied. “Many people who go to a bar are sad, whether they know it or not.”

“You want to talk about it?”

“No, not really.”

“Okay.”

“And this conversation we’re having,” Nick said. “They’re pretty brief, aren’t they?”

“Yeah. So?” Bob said.

“Well, in Hemingway’s stories, the dialogues are usually brief, too. We only need someone to start talking about fishing, big game hunting, or bull fighting and that will complete the picture. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone were to tell me that we are in a short story right now; that you, me, and Jerry here, are just fictional characters, and some writer out there, of course not Hemingway because he’s dead and, well, no one can write like him, are putting these words into our mouths, making us say things that are scripted, and making us do things that we don’t really want to do. For example, I can’t remember how I got here, and I can’t remember a point in the past where I decided that I want to come to this pub and waste my time here with you guys, no offense. In fact, I can’t remember anything at all. All I know is that I’m here in a bar and your name is Bob and his name is Jerry.”

“No more whiskey for you, Nick,” Bob said.

“Give me just a little, Bob. Just a little, before I hit the road.” Nick extended his arm and showed Bob the empty glass.

“No more, Nick. That’s enough for tonight.”

“Come on. Just a little bit more.”

“Time to go home, Nick. Your wife must be looking for you.”

“I don’t have a wife.”

“You don’t?”

“I don’t think so.”

“You don’t think so?”

“I don’t believe I’m married. I’m not sure. Am I married?”

“That’s enough, Nick. Hey, Jerry, can you drive Nick home? He can’t even remember he’s married.”

“Sure, Bob,” I said. “If Nick can tell me where he lives, then it’s not a problem.”

“Do you remember where you live, Nick?” Bob asked.

“No, I don’t.”

“Hey, Jerry, Nick can’t remember where he lives.”

“Then I can’t drive him home,” I said.

“I can’t let you stay here all night, Nick. I’m closing in an hour.”

“That’s all right. I can go someplace else.”

“Like where?”

“I don’t know. Somewhere quiet and clean.”

“Like where?”

“I don’t know. Maybe an inn. I’ll look for an inn.”

Bob looked at me. I shrugged my shoulders.

“Give me just a little, Bob. Just a little,” Nick persisted.

“Sorry, Nick,” Bob said.

Music was playing above us. I looked up and on the television, a man and a woman were dancing. The woman was wearing a long, elegant red dress. The heels of her shoes were long and sharp. She was dancing wildly, like an animal, but there was not an awkward bone in her body. The man, her partner, was trying to lure and control her. In the next moment, the woman transitioned into the man’s role — the man started dancing animal-like, like a bull, and the woman controlled him in a very composed manner. Both of them were smiling as they performed their number and the cameras were flashing behind them.

I gazed at the woman in stunned admiration.

“That’s the pasodoble,” Bob said. “They’re taking turns dancing like a bull and dancing like a matador. See that? Now the girl is the bull and the man is the matador. I wish I had a girl like that.” He chuckled. “Gorgeous, isn’t she?”

I nodded.

Nick looked up and slammed his palm on the counter. “Hah! I knew it!”

Bob took Nick’s glass and wiped the counter.

“You know, that girl used to come here,” Bob said.

“Really?” I said.

“Yeah, a long time ago. She used to drink a lot. But then she discovered dancing. I guess dancing is more intoxicating than liquor.”

“She’s more intoxicating than liquor, that’s for sure,” Nick said.

“You know, you could invite her here, Bob,” I said. “Not to drink but to dance. This place needs some life; no offense. With a girl like that, you could draw more customers. She could dance here during weekends. This place would be packed.”

“Hey, that’s a great idea, Jerry. Maybe I could invite her. That sounds great,” Bob said.

“Do you have her number?” I asked.

“No, I don’t,” Bob said.

“Gosh, she’s hot,” Nick said. “What’s her name, Bob?”

“Adriana,” Bob said.

“Adriana, you can be my bull. I can tame your feral limbs. I can tame your wild heart. I can control your animal-like energy and zest for life. Or you can also be my matador. You can draw that red cloth in front of me and I will always charge after it; I will always chase after you even if in the end you will thrust a sword right into my eye,” Nick said, laughing. “Aren’t all women like bulls and matadors, Bob? Wild, seductive, but eventually lethal?”

“That’s right,” Bob said.

“Hemingway would love her,” Nick said.

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8 thoughts on “A Hemingway Story

  1. Well done. I’m an old Hemingway fan (mostly of his short, earlier pieces). The Nick character, the dialogue, the bar, the booze, the bullfighting (a bit later), the clipped, tight dialogue, how a brief phrase carried the whole, unstated rest of the conversation, it all captured the Hemingway style. I liked it. Thanks. JR

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